If not Carney, then who will be nominated for Russia post?

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (L) takes questions during a news conference March 4, 2014 at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC. Carney held a news conference to discuss the Obama Administration's FY2015 budget proposal. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (L) (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The jaw-dropping, yet short-lived, rumor that White House press secretary Jay Carney was angling to trade the combative press room for an even more contentious post as the United States’ top diplomat in Russia was quickly squashed.

The rumor was floated by Noah Pollak, executive director at the Emergency Committee for Israel in a tweet last week and buried in a Daily Beast story on Monday about the Russian government planning sanctions of U.S. senators. Carney, who worked in Moscow for Time magazine in the early 1990s, denied that he wanted the job.

But as the Loop pointed out last week, it’s quite an inopportune time not to have a U.S. ambassador in Russia. The post has now been vacant for three weeks.

While the Carney rumor was fun while it lasted, we’re hearing that National Security Adviser Susan Rice would like to place a woman in Moscow.

If so, we’ve singled out some likely picks. One would be Sheila Gwaltney, the current deputy chief of mission, who was consul general in St. Petersburg from 2008 to 2011.  It would be an easy transition, as she could simply stay on as ambassador if chosen.

Another possibility is Pamela Spratlen, State’s woman in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, who is a former No. 2 at the embassy in Kazakhstan and former consul general in Vladivostok, Russia.

Or there’s Rose Gottemoeller, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. She had a difficult time getting Republican votes for that job, she was confirmed along party lines 58-42, with only six Republicans voting for her. She was the main U.S. negotiator for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), and Republicans claimed she withheld information about Russia possibly violating a separate nuclear treaty.

UPDATE: State contacted us to reiterate that it vehemently denies that Gottemoeller or anyone withheld information. The department’s official response is that “any allegations that the administration withheld information from Congress are categorically untrue.”

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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Al Kamen · March 17